December 5-14, 2024


Kinsel (and Sister) Overcame Fear of Failure to Earn Fourth Gold Buckle 

Jun 21, 2023

Kinsel (and Sister) Overcame Fear of Failure to Earn Fourth Gold Buckle 

By Brian Hurlburt

Failure was never an option during the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo® presented by Teton Ridge for eventual 4-time WPRA Barrel Racing World Champion Hailey Kinsel.

Well, at least she was determined to not let fearing failure muddle up her mindset.

It took some time for her to strengthen that resolve in the months following her 10th-round falter of tipping a barrel that cost her a chance at the 2021 gold buckle. When that barrel tumbled over in the dirt, a clear path was opened for Jordon Briggs to earn her first world title.

With four gold buckles in five years, Kinsel has had plenty of time to reflect upon her accomplishments. She has concluded that each gold buckle has a different feel. 

Hailey Kinsel and Sister during their first run of the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. | Photo by Tom Donoghue

“Each title has been so unique in their own way, and they all have different meanings and significance,” Kinsel said. “This one was about overcoming some fear of failure from the previous year. I didn’t want to have another oops like I did in 2021, but I knew I had to move beyond that. I had to tell myself ‘I am not going to be scared to fail. I am going to go for it every night.’ That was my plan in 2022. I felt like I really grew as a competitor winning number four because I went into every round without that fear of failure. I just gave it my very best. I knew I would be at peace however the results were going to land.”

While gold buckle four is arguably the most significant, the other three will each stand the test of time in her memory.

“For number one, it was the feeling of accomplishing something that I dreamt about my whole life and then actually pulled it off,” Kinsel said. “Then for number two, it was a feeling of knowing I could do it, and wanting to do it again to experience the same feeling. And number three was in 2020. There was so much going on in the world that year with Covid and for me personally. I had overcome a lot to win that world title. I made sure to not settle for just surviving, but I wanted to thrive amidst those difficult times.”

Kinsel earned the world title in 2022 by winning five NFR go-rounds, including the pivotal 10th when she erased the demons from the previous year. Throughout the NFR, she rode her faithful horse, Sister, to near perfection. They turned in the rodeo’s fastest time of 13.34 in the ninth round and won a total $182,783 during the NFR, tops amongst the barrel racers.

The Sister-Hailey partnership–and friendship–is one that Kinsel never underestimates.

Hailey and Sister racing around the barrel during the 2022 Wrangler NFR. | Photo by Tom Donoghue

“I have a lot to be proud of and thankful for, and I was really proud of my horse and the team of horses that got me to the NFR,” Kinsel said. “But especially Sister at the NFR performing the way she did. She was so outstanding. I am also proud of myself for executing and keeping my head on straight the whole time, given all the back and forth in the standings. The shuffling of the standings and the intensity of it all was something that we all had to deal with during those 10 nights. I was very proud of the way I was able to handle it as a competitor.”

Kinsel entered the NFR fifth in the world rankings, about $60,000 behind Briggs. It was back and forth between Briggs, Kinsel, and others throughout the 10 nights. Kinsel ended up winning the title with $302,172. 27, while Briggs won the reserve world title with $274,520.38.

She and sister cemented their bond with the winning performance(s).

“There’s nothing like what me and Sister have together,” Kinsel said. “She is my partner in everything I do. She is also like my child and she is also like my best friend. In some ways, she is teaching me so much and is almost like my instructor. In other ways. I am teaching her and I feel like I am the coach. I know that I can count on that horse every time I ask her for something. That is probably what is most special about her: she trusts me to put her in the right places so that she can have fun. And I trust her right back. She has never let me down. Not once, not ever.

“Something I have learned from Sister is to be adaptable and flexible. She is the kind of horse that can see a scenario and size it up and make it hers. My personality is to be a planner and to have everything taken care of in advance, so sometimes it threw me for a loop when I had to change my plans. Sister is not that way. She just adjusts and makes any situation work. She has definitely taught me to be more confident and to just roll with whatever happens.”

Longtime Barrel Racing expert and WPRA writer Ann Bleiker has been a first-hand witness to Kinsel’s excellence. 

“What Hailey Kinsel has done in her relatively short WPRA career is nothing short of phenomenal,” Bleiker said. “She has made an impact on the sport and now has her name mentioned with the barrel racing greats that include Charmayne James, Sherry Cervi and Kristie Peterson. And, you can’t talk about Hailey without also including her palomino rocket, Sister, who is mentioned alongside Scamper and Bozo, who have earned induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. Only time will tell how many additional world titles Kinsel will add to her name and what records she will rewrite.”